By Aaron Babyar
You're a full-time vocational ministry worker, focusing on expanding God's Kingdom for his glory. However, as you have already discovered, God has made you human. You are not Jesus 2.0. What does that mean in relation to work? Most of us have already noticed that we need a full Sabbath day every week (away from all work responsibilities), and if we miss it, things begin to unravel in our lives. Perhaps not all at once, but there is a price to pay. By design, God has not just made us for work, but also for rest.
Consider your needs beyond just a weekly day or two off. Are you allowed, encouraged, or planning to take a vacation this year? Next year? Every year? And if so, are you using that time off? Do you struggle with feelings of guilt or the need to hide during times of relaxation?
Before looking at what's normalized in the world regarding vacation time, take a second to look at Jesus. If you do a deep dive into how Jesus spent his time, he was the master of retreat! Our Savior regularly pulled away from the crowds, often with his disciples or on his own. Though scripture never specifically uses the word vacation, much less Disneyland, it does suggest that busyness was not the most valuable aspect of Ministry for Jesus. Perhaps you don't have the same conviction, but many leaders have derived that it's a positive thing to disengage for short periods from all things formal Ministry related.
So what does that mean for church planters, missionaries, youth workers, etc.?
There are a lot of different opinions regarding vacation time for Ministry workers. Sometimes they aren’t very wise.
Rest and taking a planned break is about far more than scenery and location. Though these things are influencers, rest is primarily about restoring your soul. Connecting with your creator. Connecting with your family. Living life to its fullest! Ministry is work. You might love it, and God has likely called you to it, but that doesn't mean it will not drain you of physical, emotional, and spiritual energy reservoirs which need to be replenished beyond just having a solid prayer life.
You might enjoy doing a shallow dive into some of the cultural norms regarding paid vacation/holiday. There's quite a variety of approaches, but it is broadly safe to say that most people get anywhere from one week to one month of paid vacation/holiday every year. Additionally, most places in the world outside of the USA get another week or two of paid holidays. In many cases, those who are newer to their employment get less time off, but those in more established (or are in senior leadership) positions get more time.
I love the USA, despite all of its challenges. However, one of its problematic ethos regards a ceaseless work ethic that sometimes overwhelms a sober approach to rest. Unfortunately, this seeps into vocational Ministry jobs as well. If you were to do a minimal amount of research on your own, you might see that a lot of paid time off goes unused, despite evidence that people are happier, healthier, and more effective at their jobs when they do use all of their time off. It's certainly a conundrum. And when Ministry workers burn-out, they are more likely to quit or fail… sometimes sadly and/or spectacularly.
Although our ministry is important, rest is vital for our well-being, especially in the eyes of God. It may be difficult to slow down due to expectations and work drive. In order to truly serve God to the best of our abilities, though, there are times when we need to step back and replenish our energy for both his and our benefit.
Questions to ponder:
Task: For more reading regarding your need to rest/refill, check out Leading On Empty